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Having appeared in a high school production of BYE BYE BIRDIE (more years ago than I want to remember), I hate to tell you just how much Hollywood of the unbridled hilarity Hollywood cut out of the show. The 1963 movie version of BYE BYE BIRDIE ($30) whitewashed any reference to ethnicity contained in the original Broadway book, which took far too much spice out of the show and left the female lead as bland as oatmeal. Hollywood's BYE BYE BIRDIE also threw away some of the show’s most enjoyable musical numbers, plus it screwed up the lyrics to the songs that it kept.

Even with the major alterations, the film version of BYE BYE BIRDIE is not without its charms. Ann-Margret radiates a wonderful innocence as the girl chosen to receive a final kiss from an Elvis Presley-like singer on The Ed Sullivan Show, before the heartthrob is inducted into the army. Broadway cast member Paul Lynde manages to steal just about every scene he is in, even though all of his best lines were left back in the stage version. Maureen Stapleton still manages to get some of the biggest laughs in the movie, even though her character’s best lines were hacked out of the script. Additionally, director George Sidney does a good job with the Hollywood-ized material, especially the musical numbers, which are well staged.

Unfortunately, Dick Van Dyke, who stared in the Broadway production of BYE BYE BIRDIE, doesn’t fare as well as his stage co-star Paul Lynde, but he does get a few good moments in the film that highlight his numerous talents. As much as I like Janet Leigh, I have to admit she is far too white bread the material. Let’s face it, Janet Leigh in a black wig is no Chita Rivera. The cast of BYE BYE BIRDIE also features Bobby Rydell, Ed Sullivan, Jesse Pearson and Mary LaRoche.

Columbia TriStar Home Video offers BYE BYE BIRDIE on DVD in both full screen and wide screen presentations on opposite sides of the DVD. Far too much of the film’s Panavision dimensions are cropped away on the full screen version to make it worth anyone’s time. The wide screen presentation not only restores the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio; it is also enhanced for 16:9 displays. The transfer itself is very nice looking, providing a sharp and detailed image that looks every bit as good as a 1963 film can look. Colors are reproduced with very good saturation, appealing flesh tones and no evidence of chroma noise. Solid DVD authoring hides all traces of compression artifacts.

BYE BYE BIRDIE features a Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack that brings the mix as close to modern discrete surround standards as possible. The music gets a good spread in this mix, although the surround channels are fairly limited whenever the music goes silent. Dialogue is clean sounding and the lyrics to the songs are always intelligible. Of course, the sound is somewhat limited by the fidelity of the original 1963 recordings. Other soundtrack options include the film’s original 3-channel soundtrack mix and a 2.0 Dolby Surround track. Subtitles are provided in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Thai. The interactive menus are simple, but allow one to access the standard scene and language selection features. A theatrical trailer, plus cast biographies/filmographies are provided as supplement and can be access through the menu system.


Bye Bye Birdie (1963)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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